Join the campaign to Fix the Bill

09 Jul 2018


Two Bills before Parliament will radically change how employment law operates in New Zealand. Both Bills are designed to increase the influence of unions and to change how the workforce interacts with employers. Horticulture New Zealand has recommended that neither of these Bills be made law and has made submissions on them.  These Bills are the proposed Employment Relations (Triangular Relationships) Amendment Bill and the proposed Employment Relations Amendment Bill. There is a joint campaign led by the Employer and Manufacturers Association, Business Central, Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce and Otago Employers Southland asking the Government to re-consider what is proposed, with a Fix the Bill campaign. You can see that campaign here.

The foundation stone of a modern and high performing economy is excellent relationships between employers and employees. The concerns shared by those running the Fix the Bill campaign are that both Bills will change the workforce dynamic and as a result, hinder economic growth and stability. Already there are signs that this is likely to happen. In recent weeks strike action has increased and the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) quarterly survey of business opinion for June shows businesses are no longer expecting a recovery in the coming months, which is affecting their investment decisions and softening business intentions. Report author Christina Leung said there was some easing in business confidence heading into the general election, then it dropped sharply when Labour took office, and has headed downwards since then.

The Fix the Bill campaign asks the Government to rethink these Bills, not just because they are bad for workplace relations, but because they will have bad outcomes for New Zealand. Proposed changes to employment laws should first be referred to the Future of Work Forum, recently established by the Government, so that the impact can be considered in line with the changes that robotics and artificial intelligence are going to impose on the workforce in the next few years. Instead of winding back employment relations, New Zealand needs to be looking to the future and developing innovative ways to meet employment challenges.

So I ask that you to join the Fix the Bill campaign. There are instructions on the website as to how you can do that.

There has been considerable publicity about the proposed Employment Relations Amendment Bill but not much air time given to the Triangular Relationships Amendment Bill. This Bill aims to ensure employees employed by one employer, but working under the control and direction of another business, are not deprived of the right to be covered by a collective agreement covering the work they perform. It also aims to ensure they are not disadvantaged when taking a personal grievance by being able to make that grievance against the business they are working for, but not employed by. Although on the face of it, this Bill appears not to have wide reaching affects, for it to become operative considerable changes will be required to employment agreements and arrangements and proceedings before the Employment Relations Authorities and the Courts. There is a lot of detail that will need to be worked through. But the ultimate question remains as to whether this proposed Bill is needed, and whether in fact what it is seeking to achieve cannot be achieved in other ways. It will affect many employment relationships where a business contracts another business to do work for them.  Once again the recommendation is for it to be considered by the Future of Work Forum so that any changes can be done in a strategic and planned way for the future.

You can read our submission on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill here, and our submission on the Employment Relations (Triangular Relationships) Amendment Bill here.

- Mike Chapman, CEO